A spontaneous peck on the cheek of Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has secured Girija Srinivas, member of a Chikmagalur panchayat, five minutes of fame. It has also energised India’s inner Pahlaj Nihalani, and that small, shrill voice wants to know what is going on. And why, if Srinivas looks upon the chief minister as a father figure, she did not dive for his feet. And so on. And on and on.
It has always been so. There is nothing like public display of oscular affection to cause the public to rise like a sena, or sene, yelling about malign foreign influences. In 2007, protests erupted all over the country when Richard Gere planted a kiss on Shilpa Shetty at an AIDS awareness meet. In 1993, even Nelson Mandela caused alarm by kissing Shabana Azmi. And the pioneer, back in 1980, was Padmini Kohlapure. As impetuously as Srinivas, she had kissed Prince Charles, when he visited Bollywood.
Every such incident is a signal, perhaps, that the universe is not uncaring and sterile. It is reminding us that all things, including Nihalani, exist for a reason. A censor chief exists because the soul of India is censorious, and is alarmed by displays of affection which wriggle out of the private sphere, into the public domain. The inner censor manifests itself in a range of forms, from senas and baba brigades which would replace the imported Valentine’s Day with Parents’ Day, to police officers who make lovers do sit-ups. Now, it faces a rare challenge. The Siddaramaiah affair is completely indigenous. For once, no foreign devils are involved.